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Being Grateful for Some Conflicts

For this week’s blog I am bringing back one that was popular a couple of years ago. So, this one is from the archives (originally posted February 2, 2016):

It might seem strange to use the words ‘grateful’ and ‘conflict’ in the same sentence. However, when it comes to interpersonal conflicts there is reason to consider what actually engenders or could engender feelings of thankfulness.

You may be asking in a mystified way, “Like what?”

It is often the case that what the other person defends in anger during a conflict reflects an issue that is very important to them and there is something to be learned by hearing what that is about. We may discover a value or belief she or he has that is meaningful and relevant to the conflict. It may be something she or he needs from us that is significant to consider. Maybe we discover a sensibility that explains what is driving the related emotions. These insights work both ways and what we hear ourselves defend is important for our own self-awareness and for the other person’s increased understanding of us.

Any of these awarenesses about ourselves – or the other person – is something to be grateful for. This is for a number of reasons, including that ultimately, if the relationship is ongoing, we and those with whom we have conflicts can greatly benefit from learning and understanding more about each other. These are just a few reasons to be grateful for some conflicts.

The following series of questions are best answered when you bring to mind an interpersonal dispute you are currently involved in about which feeling grateful may not have occurred to you.

  • What is the situation? What is most important to you about the conflict?
  • Why is that important to you (your answer to the previous question)?
  • What do you think is most important to the other person about the situation?
  • Why do you suppose that is (your answer to the previous question)?
  • What emotions are you experiencing about this incident? What, if anything, is unclear to you about why those emotions have surfaced?
  • What values, beliefs and/or needs do you perceive are being undermined?
  • What emotions are you aware of that the other person is experiencing? What values, beliefs and/or needs might she or he perceive you are undermining? What else may be driving the emotions in her or him?
  • What are you learning so far, as you think this out, that reflects some things for you to be grateful for regarding the conflict and/or the other person? What (else) would you like to feel grateful for regarding the conflict and the other person?
  • What difference do you think it makes if you feel a sense of gratefulness about the conflict and the other person?
  • What  might the other person be grateful to know about you and the conflict? What difference might that make for her or him? For you?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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Bee in Your Bonnet

For this week’s blog I am bringing back one that was popular a couple of years ago. So, this one is from the archives (originally posted April 19, 2016):

The expression “to have a bee in one’s bonnet” has a variety of meanings. One reported origin of this saying dates back to the early 16th century when Alexander Douglas wrote about someone being in bed with a head full of bees. “Going to bed with a head full of bees would seem to describe someone who can’t take his or her mind off something that he or she feels is important. It is speculated that the “bonnet” part of the phrase might have been derived from the large bonnet that a beekeeper wears. Hence, if a beekeeper were to have a bee in his or her bonnet, it would be very difficult for him or her to focus on anything else.”

What is it about getting a bee in the bonnet then, that leads to conflict? Though being totally focussed on an idea, view or thought does not always or necessarily lead to conflict, it can be challenging sometimes to be around someone who holds and repeats her or his position on a matter to the extent that there’s no room for alternative perspectives. There may even be a righteousness or rightness emanating from people who have bees in their bonnets that implies – directly or indirectly – that the other person is wrong. This is when being focused only on one viewpoint is off-putting for others and can lead to positional arguments.

If you tend to get a “bee in your bonnet” or become frustrated with others who do, the following set of questions might be helpful to consider.

  • If you have a “bee in your bonnet” about something important to you and you are aware it’s leading to conflict with another person, what are you focusing on?
  • Why is that especially important to you (your answer to the previous question)?
  • What do you want the other person to understand about what you are focused on that you think she or he doesn’t?
  • If you think she or he understands it, what is motivating you to repeat/stress your thoughts, ideas, etc.?
  • How do you suppose stressing the “bee in your bonnet” is affecting the other person?
  • What sort of conflict is emerging – or has emerged – for you from this?
  • How is that (your answer to the previous question) a positive thing? How is it not so positive?
  • If you are on the receiving end of someone who has a “bee in her or his bonnet”, what is the impact on you?
  • What do you suppose is important to the other person that she or he is repeating and stressing her or his thought or idea? How is this leading to conflict between you?
  • What would be a different way to manage the situation, whether you are the person with a “bee in your bonnet” or on the receiving end of someone who is demonstrating that tendency, that steers away from causing unnecessary conflict?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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Do You “Beat Around the Bush”?

For this week’s blog I am bringing back one that was popular a couple of years ago. So, this one is from the archives (originally posted January 26, 2016):

It sometimes happens when conflict is evident – that we avoid facing it and so, we manage the dynamic indirectly. This may be by dropping hints, making veiled comments, being sarcastic and other ways. Such responses to conflict may well have an underlying intention and hope to bring the situation to the surface – not necessarily to avoid it. In any case, this approach may be referred to as “beating around the bush”, which has an interesting (and frightening) derivation.

According to http://www.brownielocks.com/wordorigins.html, this expression “comes from boar hunting in which the noblemen hired workers to walk through the woods beating the branches and making noises to get the animals to run towards the hunters.  Boars were dangerous animals with razor-sharp teeth (you really did not want to meet one-to-one, esp. with no weapon).  So the unarmed workers avoided the dense undergrowth where the boar might be and beat around it, rather than going into it.  Thus, this evasive technique was termed ‘beating around the bush’”.

If this expression reflects your way of managing a current conflict, the following questions might be helpful in unpacking the tendency. Feel free to use the past tense about a previous dispute, if preferred. In either case, I suggest you start by bringing to mind a situation in which you realize you are or were inclined to use evading techniques.

  • What is the situation about?
  • What evading technique(s) are you using?
  • What is happening as a result of using that technique (your answer to the previous question)?
  • What do you want to have happen that may not because you are evading the conflict that way?
  • When you consider the metaphor more closely, what does the “bush” represent in your conflict?
  • Taking the metaphor further, in what ways are you being a “nobleman” or “unarmed worker”?
  • What other technique(s) might be more effective?
  • What do you suppose keeps you from being direct rather than evasive?
  • If you haven’t said so yet, what are the fears you are experiencing about the conflict? About the other person?
  • What are the possible opportunities you are missing by “beating around the bush”?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

 

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People-Pleasers in Conflict

For this week’s blog I thought I would bring back a blog that was very popular a few years ago. So, this one is from the archives (originally posted January 12, 2016):

Some of us have a pattern known as people-pleasing. When it comes to conflict this may refer to a tendency to avoid expressing ideas, thoughts and feelings when they differ from another’s for fear of offending them. Afraid to say no, or to defend ourselves, or having a tendency to comply rather than assert a different idea or suggestion, are other examples of behaviours that reflect people-pleasing.

This way of being often means living our lives according to other’s values and beliefs and, as a consequence, acting in ways that are continually out of alignment with ourselves. Having low self-esteem and trouble envisioning ways to manage dissension that will serve us better are commonly prevalent. This makes engaging in conflict a huge challenge.

Not all people are fully aware of how our people-pleasing patterns adversely affect conflict engagement. Others of us are fully aware, but prefer to accommodate others or give in so as not to be part of a conflict. In any case, we may experience self-anger, feelings of inauthenticity and dishonesty about the conflict and its impact.

It’s not a straightforward and easy process to change people-pleasing patterns. However, the following questions may help to open up an internal conversation to be able to gain some sense of who you prefer to be if you tend to be a people-pleaser in some or all conflicts – and don’t want to be.

  • Consider a conflict in which you know you behaved as a people-pleaser. What was that situation?
  • In what ways did you interact as a people-pleaser?
  • How did being a people-pleaser help you? How did it not help you?
  • What need (or needs) remains unmet for you due to being a people-pleaser in that situation?
  • If you were good to yourself rather than the other person, what would you have said or done differently in that situation?
  • How would it feel if you said or did that (your answer to the previous question)?
  • What different outcome might have resulted if you said or did what would have pleased you rather than the other person?
  • If you are a people-pleaser and, for instance, have trouble disagreeing, expressing the impact of the conflict, asserting your views or saying no, what messages might that convey?
  • What messages do you prefer to convey (if you don’t like the ones you referred to in the previous question for you)? How are those messages more aligned with your values and beliefs?
  • What will it take to interact in ways that are more aligned with your values and beliefs?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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The Conflict Iceberg

For this week’s blog I thought I would bring back a blog that was very popular a few years ago. So, this one is from the archives (originally posted January 22, 2013):

The metaphor of an iceberg has commonly been used as a metaphor about conflict. This is on the basis that there are things above the surface that show themselves and then, there is all that is going on underneath. Compared to conflict, some things are obvious to the disputants (and often others) that reflect the dynamic between them, the issues in dispute, and other aspects of the existing dissension. These are above the water ‘line’.

Below the water line is much more. There are hopes, expectations, emotions, needs, values, beliefs, and other deeply held views and feelings. Our individual and collective histories that we bring to the issues in dispute are in the mass below the surface, too. While, for all intents and purposes, this underlying mass appears to be unnoticed or remains unspoken, it has an enormous impact on the interaction. Indeed, it is an integral part of the conflict and who we are within it, within ourselves, and within the relationship.

Yes, some things may be best left unexplored or untouched. However, without increased self-discovery of what is below the surface, we miss the opportunity to better understand and reconcile our motivations and expectations. And to consider what ought to be shared and discussed, and what needs to remain dormant to reach the optimum outcome.

For these ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions), consider a conflict in which you see or feel that only the tip of the iceberg is showing itself.

  • What about the conflict do you think is fully evident to you and the other person?
  • What lies beneath that is evident for you but is not likely evident to the other person?
  • What concerns you that may be going on for the other person that is not evident to you?
  • What outcome do you want?
  • Why is that outcome important to you?
  • What do you want to leave below the surface?
  • How will that help you reach the outcome you want?
  • What is there to be gained for the other person if you leave that below the surface?
  • What may the other person want to leave below the surface? Why do you suppose?
  • Thinking about all this now, what needs to come to the surface to reach the optimum outcome – even though it may be challenging for you and/or the other person?
  • What other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) may you add here?
Posted in Conflict Coaching, Conflict Management Coaching, Consequences, Emotions in Conflict, Facing Conflict | Leave a comment